Sam Charles

Communications Manager

School of Engineering
Office: EME4242
Phone: 250.807.8136


Sam started at the Okanagan campus of the University of British in 2013 as a Senior Media Production Specialist with UBC Studios Okanagan.  After four years in that role, he transitioned into the Communications Manager role with the School of Engineering.

At the School of Engineering, he is responsible for developing strategic communication materials that highlight the innovative research and experiential learning on the Okanagan campus.  Sam is energized by telling the endlessly inspiring stories of the School’s researchers, students and staff.

With over twenty years of experience in communications, film, television and radio production, Sam is a seasoned professional communicator focused on generating dynamic and engaging content.

Sam has represented Canada three-times at Summer World University Games as Team Canada’s videographer documenting the Games for international audiences.  On Friday nights during the varsity season, he is the play-by-play voice (and technical advisor) for UBC Okanagan Heat basketball and volleyball webcasts on


Integrated strategic communications including social media; Develop, design, and maintain communications content; Media relations; Issues Management; Develop and prepare faculty awards nominations


Fang (Fiona) Fang is a graduate of the University of British Columbia’s Okanagan campus School of Engineering and an assistant professor at the Western University.

What brought you to UBC Okanagan?

I had always dreamed of studying in Canada since I was a child. To be honest, UBC Okanagan was the only University I applied to when I was looking for Universities to pursue my PhD degree. As one of the top Electrical Engineering program in Canada, UBC Okanagan undertakes cutting-edge research and works closely with industry. Luckily, I successfully got the opportunity to study at such a world-leading University. I was also attracted by the beautiful location, and I still have fond memories of my adventures in the Okanagan.

Who was your supervisor? How did you initially connect?

Professor Julian Cheng was my PhD supervisor, and he taught me more than I can say in the process of my research. I initially came to know him from the faculty website before I came to Canada. His research interests matched well with mine, so I applied to pursue a PhD in his research group. I have been fortunate to be his student and his supervision has laid a solid foundation for my career.

Describe your research while at UBC Okanagan?

My research focused on the key technologies in 5G. I designed various resource allocation algorithms to improve the energy efficiency for non-orthogonal multiple access (NOMA), which was then a hot topic and is still an active research topic for next generation wireless systems. My PhD research and education background at UBC build a strong foundation for my current research area. That research includes topics related to intelligent wireless communication, edge AI, and computation technologies.

What are some of your fondest memories from being at UBC Okanagan?

I will never forget my time at UBC Okanagan, as it was full of fond memories. If I must choose just a few, the first thing I missed the most after I left UBC Okanagan is the research environment. I enjoyed the research freedom in our research group, where various researchers worked on different projects depending on their interests. We shared ideas, technologies and fun moments, and tough challenges. We built a strong connection and friendship, which made the journey much more enjoyable.

I also miss the UBC Okanagan Campus, a quiet, convenient, beautiful, and peaceful campus. I enjoyed doing research at such a famous University full of diversity and equality. Everyone came from different countries and got together to study, work, and share knowledge with each other. All these attributes continue to encourage me to strive towards being a better person every day. UBC Okanagan is also where I met my husband, who was doing research in the Civil Engineering program, so UBC Okanagan has a very special place in our hearts.

Lastly, I miss the various social events on campus. For example, EGGS culture nights where everyone from different countries shows off their unqiue cultures, dances, songs, and food. It was indeed a fantastic experience.

How have your studies at UBC Okanagan prepared you for your new faculty position?

My PhD from UBC built not only a strong research foundation but also a solid academic network for my research career. The courses I took and my teaching assistant experience prepared me well for being faculty member in terms of research and teaching. Besides, the travel grant I received supported me in attending IEEE Communications Society’s flagship conferences, i.e., IEEE International Conference on Communications (ICC) and IEEE Global Communications Conference (Globecom). Those experiences provided me with opportunities to meet other experts in my field and learn the latest advanced technologies in wireless communications, which extended my academic network (a crucial element to my academic career progression).

 What the process is like in landing a faculty role?

After a long research journey (PhD in UBC Okanagan, postdoc at Lancaster University UK and Manchester University UK, and Assistant professor at Durham University UK), I finally found a excellent faculty position at Western University in London, Ontario. Before this job, I worked as a postdoc and Assistant Professor in UK for four years after graduating from UBC. I must admit that although the process of finding a faculty position in Canada is challenging due to the intense competition, it is quite enjoyable.

It has been a remarkable life experience for me to move from China to Canada to UK, and then finally back to Canada. I love exploring the world and different cultures while studying and working. It was tough at the beginning, especially when facing cultural differences but I kept trying, knowing that things would work out. My efforts finally paid off when I found this dream position. It is a position that I am confident will enable me to achieve my career goals. Thanks to perseverance and the support of my professors and colleagues, I confidently say I am ready for whatever comes next.

What type of research will you be doing in your faculty role?

With the remarkable growth of device diversity and data volume, the sixth generation (6G) wireless network will become extremely complex and crowded due to limited spectrum, increasing connection density, and diverse service demands. The critical challenge in 6G is how to intelligently support a large number of devices with limited spectrum. As an Assistant Professor at Western University, my research mainly focuses on intelligent wireless communications. My research goal is to make the current communication system smart and intelligent, which will revolutionize current communication systems evolving from the traditional “connected things” to “connected intelligence”. This will involve the cooperation of various technologies, including intelligent wireless communications, machine learning/AI, data analysis and computation technologies.

What does the future hold? 

My research aims to address the fundamental issues in intelligent wireless communication in terms of energy efficiency, communication efficiency, privacy, and security. This will bring interdisciplinary impacts to communication technologies, AI, and data analytics. The outcomes of the above research will facilitate smart city implementation throughout Canada; where big cities like Toronto and Vancouver have already initiated efforts. Meanwhile, the proposed technologies have strong potential to bring significant economic benefits to supporting organizations and the Canadian communication technology market in the near future (5-10 years).


As part of the 2022 Concrete Toboggan Team, the mechanical team was awarded 1st for mechanical design and mechanical innovation. Maddy Light designed the frame which placed first, Rachel May designed the steering system which placed third and Katie Van Rooyen designed the braking system which placed second. Colin Mattinson was the mechanical team’s lead.

We asked Maddy Light about her experience at the School of Engineering and with the Concrete Toboggan team.

What drew you to engineering?

I have always liked figuring out how things are made and how to make things. I also knew engineering would I provide a solid career path.  Considering these factors going into engineering so it was an easy choice.

Was there is a moment when it became clear that engineering was right for you?

The first day of classes, it felt like I had found my tribe. I was excited by all these concepts I was getting to learn that I had always been curious about.

We often hear that studying engineering is gruelling, what has been your experience?

Engineering is very difficult. It will stretch you in ways you didn’t realize. The courses are designed to be extremely difficult and time consuming. Taking the 6-course load standard is difficult, but it is rewarding.

How do you approach your studies?

I try and keep and balance between school and leisure time. Keeping a detailed schedule for my school time is key to success. Most of my time is spent doing school but those few moments I have free I try and to make the most of by doing by on a hike, swim or do something creative like sewing. I find if I can make time to relax then my school work improves.

Why do you participate in extra-curriculars?

I really enjoy connecting with my peers and making new friends. Clubs are a great way to apply your engineering knowledge and make friends. I have found being part of the Great Northern Concrete Race club to be incredibly rewarding. I had the unique opportunity to design the frame for the Toboggan where I got to expand my engineering skills and learn from my peers.

Why should a prospective student consider engineering?

Engineering is hard, gruelling and will wear you down. But it is so worth it, by doing it you will gain so much knowledge and experience. You will see the world through a different lens.

What are your future aspirations?

Once I graduate, I would like to pursue a career in project management. I enjoy connecting with people in a fast paced environment and  working on different types of projects.


School of Engineering prepares to honour 2022 graduates in the first in-person convocation since the pandemic.

Over 400 undergraduate and graduate students will receive their degrees during the UBC Okanagan convocation ceremony on June 10th. The graduates include the first cohort of manufacturing engineering students, 143 undergraduate students graduating with a degree with distinction, 19 MEng graduands, 50 MASc graduands, and 32 PhDs.

CONVOcation 2022 photo gallery

“Convocation is a special time not only for our graduands, their families and friends, but for our faculty and staff who have shared in their academic journey,” says Lukas Bichler, director pro tem at the School of Engineering. “The opportunity to celebrate this milestone with our students is something we’ve been anticipating since the announcement that convocation would be in-person.”

Atop the graduating class includes two friends who will both be recognized for their academic accomplishments. Rachel May achieved the highest academic average over her final two years and will be awarded the UBC Medal in Engineering during the ceremony while David Charette receives the Canadian Society of Mechanical Engineering (CSME) Medal in recognition of an outstanding final year of study. In addition, the following students were recognized as the top students in their respective programs:

  • Rachel May – Engineers and Geoscientists BC Achievement Certificate in Engineering – Overall
  • Ken Masuda – Engineers and Geoscientists BC Achievement Certificate in (Civil) Engineering
  • Jared Paull – Engineers and Geoscientists BC Achievement Certificate in (Electrical) Engineering
  • Wesley Burchnall – Engineers and Geoscientists BC Achievement Certificate in (Manufacturing) Engineering
  • David Charette – Engineers and Geoscientists BC Achievement Certificate in (Mechanical) Engineering

This year’s Dr. Gordon Springate Sr. Award in Engineering, an award given to a student who demonstrates material contribution to their community outside of the program, will be presented to Ahmed Sabry. Sabry has been an active leader on campus since he arrived at the School of Engineering. His campus leadership includes involvement with the International Programs & Services, Jumpstart orientation, and the Disability Resource Centre. He also participated in undergraduate research with Drs. Kenneth Chau and Mohammad Zarifi where he worked on iridescent nanostructures and automated sensors.

Samantha Krieg will be recognized with the Dr. Spiro Yannacopoulos Memorial Award in Engineering Leadership for her demonstrated excellence in both academics and leadership. The award is presented to an undergraduate or graduate student who has excelled in their studies and fostering a sense of community at the School of Engineering.

“All of these exceptional students have made tremendous contributions to the School and to UBC, and we are delighted to shine a light on their accomplishments,” explains Bichler.

The 2022 UBC Okanagan Faculty of Applied Science Convocation takes place on Friday June 10, 2022 at 1:30pm. While tickets are no longer available, the ceremony will be streamed live at


School of Engineering Convocation 2022 by the numbers:


Total Graduands

Civil Engineering 104
Electrical Engineering 76
Manufacturing Engineering 6
Mechanical Engineering 125
Computer Science Minor 11
Management Minor 5
Master of Engineering 19
Masters of Applied Science 50
PhD 32


Image courtesy of UBCO Aerospace Club

The UBCO Aerospace Club placed second at the 13th Annual Aerial Evolution Association of Canada Student UAS Competition in Manitoba and won the Innovation Award for their pneumatic soft robotic claw system.

Image courtesy of UBCO Aerospace Club

The eight competing teams were tasked with providing security for a large diplomatic installation in Canada, by responding to intrusion by persons at the perimeter of the grounds, as well as detect and respond to the delivery of a suspicious package and retrieve it for safe disposal. Teams were given two 45min. flight windows to complete the above tasks.

Image courtesy of UBCO Aerospace Club

This year’s scenario was provided to teams back in September and over the school year they prepared their entries. “Throughout the second semester, we held weekly flight tests that allowed our team to become experts on our system. This allowed our pilots and operators the time needed to gain the necessary confidence to fly our systems at competition and compete against these more experienced schools,” explains UBCO Aerospace Club President Ian Johnston.

The competition judges were particularly impressed with the UBC Okanagan team’s pneumatic robotic claw system. “In only their second year in the competition, UBCO showed airline-quality call-and-response preparation and innovative engineering to place second,” explained lead judge Mark Espenant. The claw system, mounted to a drone, was designed to remove potentially unsafe devices.

Image courtesy of UBCO Aerospace Club

According to Johnston, the team is looking forward to next year’s competition. “Preparations have started for next year to further develop our system, bring on new team members and bring home another podium finish.”

The competition is scheduled for next year at the Centre d’Excellence sur les Drones (CED) in Alma, Quebec.

Image courtesy of UBCO Aerospace Club

Kishoare Tamanna and Amir Ahmadian have been awarded John Tiedje Fellowships in Clean Energy and Greenhouse Gas Mitigation from UBC’s Clean Energy Research Centre.

The fellowship awarded to students whose research helps create and maintain healthy environments, with preference for research developing clean and renewable energy, advancing the electrification of the economy, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, or improving the efficiency of energy utilization.

Tamanna, in her second year of PhD studies at the School of Engineering, works in the Applied Laboratory for Advanced Materials and Structures (ALAMS) under the supervision of Civil Engineering Professor Shahria Alam.

Learn more about her previous research

Amir Ahmadian is a PhD student jointly supervised by Mohammad Arjmand and Jian Liu. His research focuses on developing innovative uses for non-recyclable plastic and rubber waste.

Learn more about his research

Off the ice, the National Hockey League is a big business focused on many areas including merchandising. A new collaboration between the NHL’s St. Louis Blues and a Canadian immersive technology company, with a School of Engineering connection, is bringing the team its first metaverse shopping experience.

The Blues have teamed up with MantisXR to create an immersive reality retail experience. The company’s technology and processes were developed by Dr. Vincent Loi, who graduated from the School of Engineering in 2021. Loi worked alongside his PhD supervisor (Dr. Kenneth Chau) to develop immersive technologies as a partial detour from his core research.

In addition to being the lead designer of MantisXR, Vincent is now a senior research scientist at Huawei Technologies in Canada.  Dr. Kenneth Chau is the technology advisor for MantisXR.

Learn more about the partnership:

NHL Press Release

Article in the St. Louis Inno



A proprietary-free catheter drainage device, designed by a group of fourth year engineering students at UBC Okanagan has won the Simon Cox Student Design Competition. The competition, in its seventh year, is intended to raise awareness of the day-to-day challenges facing people with neuromuscular disorders and spinal cord injuries, and how innovative designs can make a real difference.

The team of Spencer Bell, Rhys Herzberg, Shane Rutley, Runliang Wu in collaboration with their peer Misha Tvrdik (and faculty supervisor Assistant Professor Sabine Weyand) also won the Interdisciplinary and Overall Prize at the 2022 School of Engineering Capstone Showcase. The capstone judges were particularly impressed in the manner in which the students collaborated with stakeholders including a person living with MS to develop the device.

The drainage device mechanism enables a user to empty their urine catheter at the touch of a button. The device has a tactile button that’s sensitivity can be adapted based on user preference. The tubbing and electronics were inexpensive, non-proprietary and adjustable to various wheelchair configurations.

The School of Engineering team wins $3,000 and the Simon Cox Principal Award. This is the first entry, and the first winning project done by an Engineering student team at UBC Okanagan.

Fifteen teams composed of 58 post-secondary students across British Columbia competed for four awards. All awards recognize designs that will enhance or improve the lives of persons living with disabilities.

An event to showcase 5 shortlisted projects was held virtually on May 7th, 2022. An archived version of the event can be found at

Other winners included:

  • Simon Cox Award Prize $3,000: Automatic Drainage Catheter (UBC Okanagan)
  • Nancy Lear Achievement Award Second Prize $2,000: Parkinson’s Laser and Sound Cueing Module (UBC)
  • Walt Lawrence Innovation Award $1,000: Rainscape (UBC)

This year’s field of competitors saw the greatest representation of post-secondary institutions teams in the history of the Simon Cox Student Design Competition. Participants in the 2022 Simon Cox Design Challenge included BCIT, UBC Okanagan, SFU, UBC, and University of Victoria students, their instructors and people with a physical disability that had a problem to be solved.

The competition is generously sponsored by RBC Foundation, the Kinsmen Foundation of BC, KPMG, Lohn Foundation & AXIS Insurance Group.

Technology for Living is a non-profit leader in assistive technology, innovation, and respiratory care in BC. Technology for Living strives daily to improve the quality of life for BC residents, with breakthrough solutions to everyday problems. Technology for Living’s is dedicated to helping people with physical disabilities in BC function more independently.

Learn more about the competition at

Transfer students find success pursuing their BASc at UBC Okanagan

Poet Robert Frost is well known for his poem “The Road Not Taken” where he reflected on a choice between two options. It’s a situation familiar to some UBC Okanagan engineering students who take a slightly different route to their studies. These students choose to forego the direct entry admission straight out of high school, and instead elect to take the engineering transfer program.

UBC Okanagan’s School of Engineering offers a bridge transfer program through two post-secondary institutions, as well as an engineering transfer program with ten post-secondary institutions across British Columbia. Students who successfully complete their transfer program are guaranteed admission into second-year engineering at UBC Okanagan’s School of Engineering. Transfer programs offer students an alternate pathway to the School of Engineering, and contribute to student success at UBC and beyond.

In partnership with ten post-secondary institutions across British Columbia, students who successfully complete one of those programs with a GPA of greater than 2.8 are guaranteed admission into second-year engineering at UBC Okanagan’s School of Engineering. All transfer students do a bridge semester before joining the university. This consisted of taking Calculus III (now Linear Algebra), University English, Electronics Math III and first-year Chemistry.

Madalyn Light is graduating in May with a BASc in Mechanical Engineering. After finishing high school at Kelowna Secondary, Light had aspirations of becoming a pilot.

“I remember starting to get really interested in engineering in grade 11, but I wasn’t really sure if I wanted to commit to doing the engineering degree.” Instead, she took a year off joined the army and traveled. The next year, Madalyn launched into the Mechanical Engineering Technology program at Okanagan College. It was there, where one afternoon, she joined some friends for an orientation workshop about UBC’s engineering transfer program. “I still wasn’t 100% convinced, so I decided to start working and see where my diploma would take me.”

“After a few years working for a local construction company, I sensed that being a technologist could only get me so far, so I decided to further investigate UBC’s transfer and bridge programs, “says Light. Despite being nervous about the transferring process and joining the university, Light was admitted. The only hiccup in the experience was, since she hadn’t applied while at Okanagan College, she had to complete one additional semester there prior to starting at UBC.

Light found the transition to UBC relatively smooth. “I found a cohort of fellow transfer students, and we are still together now in year four working on a capstone together.”

It didn’t hurt that Light also had a familiarity with the campus as her brother graduated from the School of Engineering in 2017.

A big difference that Light found between college and university was the opportunities to join design teams and clubs, and even participate in research. Light is an active member in the Concrete Toboggan Team and Women in Engineering.

Avery Schneider has a similar experience as a transfer student entering UBC Okanagan. A love for math, physics, and creativity drew Schneider to civil engineering. “I love that engineering is hands-on so you can be creative and think outside the box to solve problems.” In grade 12, she determined that engineering was a discipline that really inspired her, but decided to “test drive” it by starting at Okanagan College.

“Pretty well after the first day at OC, I knew that I wanted to do the bridge program,” explains Schneider, who is completing a second co-op work term as part of her Civil Engineering BASc. Students who hold a technology diploma can apply to UBC through one of the established Bridge Programs at Camosun and Okanagan College.

“It was a little bit of transition coming to UBCO since I had attended the Vernon campus of Okanagan College, and UBC is a much bigger campus,” says Schneider.

Once she got to UBC, she also quickly forged a bond with other bridge and transfer students. “The engineering programming at UBC Okanagan lends itself to connecting with your classmates because there are tons of group projects and assignments.”

Schneider also connected with an advisor at the School’s Academic Services who helped her navigate the on-boarding (course selection, etc) when she first arrived at UBC. “We (transfer student cohort) had an advisor’s email and if we had any questions we could talk to her about it, and I remember emailing her a lot and she was also always very helpful making sure I was getting into the classes that I wanted to and making sure that my schedule worked out.”

During the past two terms, she has been on co-op working with the same company in Northern Alberta. “My job is mostly surveying but I also communicate daily with the EITs, the engineers, and all the contractors and get to do and learn a lot of other awesome things,” says Schneider.

“My plan is to graduate in May 2023, so at this point everything is on track and I am really excited to see what the future holds.”

For both Light and Schneider, a smooth transition from college to UBC has led to their success to date.

“I am excited about graduating in May, and really want to find a role where I can truly make an impact,” explains Light. “I think for anyone consider the jump from a technologist program to university, they shouldn’t hesitate – with the support of UBC and a strong cohort of like-minded transfer students, you’ll succeed.”

As Robert Frost said:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

Robert Frost (1915) “The Road Not Taken”

For more information about the Transfer and Bridge programs visit

At the 2022 Teaching Excellence Celebration, four members of the School of Engineering were recognized for their achievements. Ayman Elnaggar, Mehran Shirazi, Negin Jalili, and Mahmoud Sakr each were celebrated for their outstanding and innovative teaching.

Read the full release from the Provost’s Office

Dr. Elnaggar was recognized with a Provost Teaching Excellence and Innovation Award for leading the development of several new initiatives and academic opportunities, including the introduction of a Fall Reading Week to the UBC Okanagan community and the School of Engineering Dual-Credit Program.

Dr. Shirazi received the Provost Teaching Excellence and Innovation Award for his tireless work and advocacy to ensure positive learning experiences for his students. He is also the recipient of several notable teaching accolades, including Thank a Prof and Golden Apple awards as well as the Canadian Federation of Engineering Students Association Appreciation award.

Teaching Assistants Negin Jalili and Mahmoud Sakr were recognized for their exceptional contributions to academic life on campus.

UBC Okanagan recognizes teaching excellence and innovation through a number of prestigious awards. Recipients are exemplary role models who have a significant impact on the culture of teaching and learning at UBC’s Okanagan campus. Awards are also available for undergraduate and graduate student teaching assistants and tutors in recognition of their exceptional contributions to academic life.

Fourth-year students implement a wastewater treatment and biogas system for a dairy farm in Barbados.

Inspired by APSC 169 Fundamentals of Sustainable Engineering Design, a group of engineering students sought out a way to make a difference. For their fourth-year capstone project, they connected with Civil Engineering Professor Cigdem Eskicioglu to develop a wastewater treatment and biogas system.

“For our capstone project, we decided to take meaningful action to implement more sustainable practices into the energy and water use of dairy farms,” explains Nicole Keeler, a fourth-year civil engineering student and member of Capstone’s Group 44.

Keeler and the team (Landon Colvin, Ken Masuda, Austin Phillips, Taylor Phillips, and Siera Zandvliet) developed a wastewater and biodigester system that enables sustainable water reclamation and reduced carbon emissions through biogas collection.

With support from Excel Worldwide Agriculture and a grant from the United Nations Development Programme, the team partnered with Dr. Nikolai Holder from the University of the West Indies and Jackman Dairy Farm to undertake the project.

“Community anaerobic digesters are essential for sustainable waste utilization and circular economy. I was honored to be part of this project and supported the training of Group 44 in this highly desired area” says Professor Eskicioglu who leads Bioreactor Technology Research Group on UBC’s Okanagan Campus.

“Since first-year, all of us have been searching out opportunities to uncover sustainable solutions and when we found this project everything seemed to line up,” says Colvin. “This project will have a lasting impact not only in Barbados but in other countries around the world.”

Barbados is one of the world’s most water scarce countries. Based on simulations, the project with Jackman Dairy could recycle 80% of their water, and generate 283 hours of gas stove operation.

Overall, the project has five goals: save water and energy costs, recycle water, generate renewable energy, create a healthier farm environment, and lead to a sustainability education and continued action.

“Engineers must play a significant role in addressing climate change – we know what we can do to make a difference, and it’s our responsibility to take action,” says Keeler. “We are very excited to progress into the construction phase so that Jackman Dairy can begin to recycle water and enjoy a healthier farm environment.”

The farm’s site will be prepared in June, and construction is scheduled to take place later this summer. Site testing and stakeholder training will take place in the fall before the system is implemented in more regions across the world.

For more information about capstone at UBC Okanagan’s School of Engineering visit: